Five Tips For Trail Camera Success

by Cole Daniels

While hunter participation is dropping in nearly all game pursuits, deer hunting is growing. There are many reasons including a booming population, antler size records falling like rain, and a barrage of new equipment that makes hunting easier and more enjoyable. One of these tools is the trail camera. Trail cameras allow hunters to see what deer are using their property and when. While trail cameras certainly help create an inventory of the deer on a property, placing them haphazardly will not produce the desired results. Here are five tips for trail camera success.

trail camera photoGo For Infrared
Infrared cameras allow you to take night photos without a flash. Some deer experts believe the flash on some cameras will spook deer. There is a strong case in favor of that argument and many hunters without infrared turn the flash off or set a timer to avoid night time photos. Yes, this limits your ability to see deer but it prevents scaring deer off your property.

Face Cameras North
If it’s possible, face the camera lens to the north. This will keep glare out of your pictures at any time of day. If that’s not possible, try to face the camera in the best direction to avoid glare. For example, if most deer sightings in a particular area occur in the morning, face the camera to the west.

Beware Feeders
If your sole intent is to inventory bucks, setting your cameras on feeders isn’t a bad idea. However, if you really want to get a good sense of all the deer on your property, feeders are a poor location for trail cameras. You will get a lot of pictures of other animals & you won’t get a true representation of the buck to doe ratio on a given property. Bucks generally run off does around feeders shortly after dark. A better strategy is to set cameras on travel routes to and from feeders.

You never know what might show up on your trail cameraFunnels, Scrapes, and Rub Lines
These are the best places for trail cameras. You will get a good idea of what areas bucks are using and when they are using them. I like to rotate cameras to different locations every few weeks in an attempt to pattern deer. You will find that deer often use the same routes to get to and from feeding and bedding areas. It’s challenging and exciting to really get to know specific deer this way. Then there are the strangers. These deer only show up on cameras once or maybe twice during the year. They could be visiting from another property or just smart enough to normally take the trail less traveled.

Do Some Landscaping
The only thing worse than finding no pictures on your trail camera is finding a bunch of pictures of nothing. The most common cause of this is braches and brush blowing in the wind and triggering the camera. Use and hand saw to clear away any branches directly in front of the camera or better yet, set the camera up in a clearing if possible.

Setting up trail cameras serves two purposes for me. First, they inventory deer on my hunting property. Second, and perhaps more importantly, trail cameras extend my hunting season by creating a challenge to “hunt” deer with the cameras during summer months.

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Meet Cole Daniels:

Cole cut his teeth hunting whitetails in Southwest Wisconsin and mulies in western states.  He also enjoys waterfowling, upland bird hunting, and fishing.  When Cole isn't pursuing game, he fits in some time to work at a major manufacturing firm as human resource manager.